Carolina Panthers, Robby Anderson reach 2-year extension

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Wide receiver Robby Anderson didn't waste any time during Tuesday's practice showing why he deserved the two-year extension the Carolina Panthers gave him earlier in the day that sources said is worth $29.5 million.

First, the 28-year-old made a one-handed snag of a scrambling Sam Darnold pass that -- while just out of bounds in the end zone -- was spectacular.

Later, he made an even more impressive catch of a deep pass from Darnold that went off his hand, off the back foot of cornerback Donte Jackson and back into Anderson's hands for a touchdown.

As hot as it was outdoors with the heat index right at 100 degrees, Anderson was even hotter in the team's indoor practice facility.

"Since I came here I felt like I was finding my dream," said Anderson, who signed a two-year deal with Carolina last season after spending his first four seasons with the New York Jets. "Early on in my career, I was kind of lost in a sense and trying to find my way.

"I wouldn't call them mistakes. I would call them lessons that I learned, putting me where I need to be around people I need to be around for me to learn from those things and grow into a better man."

That Anderson gets a chance to reunite with Darnold figured into his decision to sign the extension of which $20.5 million is guaranteed, according to sources. Anderson was Darnold's favorite target with the Jets in 2018 and 2019. He had 102 catches for 1,431 yards and 11 touchdowns during that time.

"That's a big factor, too," Anderson said. "Being back with a quarterback that I'm confident in, that I know is going to be here as well ... everything across the board it was all checkmarks."

The Panthers traded for Darnold during the offseason, then picked up his fifth-year option that locks him down through 2022.

Keeping Darnold surrounded by skill players such as Anderson, the Panthers believe, gives him the best chance to succeed after struggling for three years in New York. They've already picked up the fifth-year option on wide receiver DJ Moore for next season and still could sign him to an extension.

They also have running back Christian McCaffrey locked down through 2025 after signing him to a four-year, $64 million extension last year.

"I'm excited for this season, and also excited for the future," Anderson said.

Anderson is coming off a career-high 95 catches for 1,096 yards in an offense that was missing McCaffrey for 13 games. He believes he can be even better moving forward.

"The main goal is to win," said Anderson, referring to the Panthers going 5-11 last season. "I'm just glad to have the opportunity for us to accomplish what we're really working for."

As a reward for what he accomplished last season and to lessen the cap hit moving forward, Anderson was given an additional $4.5 million this year to make his 2021 salary $12.5 million, according to a league source.

He will get $13 million in 2022 and $12 million in 2023.

General manager Scott Fitterer said he wanted to lock down all of the key skill players to keep continuity. It's part of what he called a three-year model, and he began working on Anderson's deal soon after being hired in January.

Fitterer added the chemistry Anderson and Darnold have "is important," but reminded Anderson had a big year in 2020 with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback.

Darnold wasn't the only person Anderson was reunited with at Carolina. Anderson played for head coach Matt Rhule at Temple in 2013 and 2015.

Rhule fought to get Anderson back in school in 2015 after an academic suspension.

Rhule downplayed the significance of making sure Anderson and Darnold are together at least through next season, but he didn't downplay Anderson's speed and ability to make big plays.

"Sam's got a big arm," he said. "We can take advantage of the whole field with Robby and continue to develop Robby's game."

Darnold definitely likes what Anderson brings to the game.

"He's superfast, so he's always someone who's going to take the top off," Darnold said last week at training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. "There's plenty of guys on this team to be able to do that. But when you have elite speed like Robby has, you're gonna miss him."